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Although I’ve mostly written about nonfiction this year, I’ve actually been reading quite a number of great novels over the last several months. While I wouldn’t recommend all of them to every reader, they all seem like perfect reads in certain situations.

euphoria by lily kingEuphoria by Lily King

Euphoria is the story of a love triangle between three young anthropologists studying tribes in New Guinea. It’s based loosely on the biography of Margaret Mead (and, not surprisingly, made me want to grab a biography of Mead ASAP). I’ve heard many people say they fell into the book and read it in one sitting, which was almost my experience. Whatever voodoo Lily King uses in her writing made the pages just fly by.

Recommended For: When you need a book you won’t want to put down.

the lost boys symphony by mark andrew fergusonThe Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson

I love books that blend genre elements with literary fiction. This book does just that, telling the story of a young man who is kidnapped by future version of himself after breaking up with his girlfriend and experiencing a mental breakdown. The plot of this one is bonkers, but at the core it’s a really heartfelt story about friendship and responsibility in the face of mental illness. I liked it a lot and can’t wait to see what Mark Andrew Ferguson writes next.

Recommended For: When you want a book that will make you pay close attention.

crazy rich asians by kevin kwanCrazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians is a Pride and Prejudice inspired satire about the lifestyles of the rich and the astronomically rich families living in China, Singapore and Hong Kong. I enjoyed a lot about this novel – the humor, the story and the writing – and I’m curious about the sequel coming out soon. But I also couldn’t help feeling that if the book had been written by a woman, it would have been marketed as chick lit – that’s not a bad thing, just an observation about gender in publishing and marketing.

Recommended For: When you want something frothy and funny.

find me by laura van den bergFind Me by Laura Van Den Berg

I think I read Find Me at the wrong time, a time when I was not in the mood for a literary, psychologically complex dystopian novel. The book is set in a hospital in the middle of Kansas where a group of survivors is quarantined from a plague affecting the rest of the world. Yet things are not all they appear, and eventually the protagonist has to make a choice about what to do next. The writing is just beautiful, and although the novel as a whole didn’t quite land for me, I still liked reading it.

Recommended For: When you want a book with beautiful sentences and complicated psychology.

the walls around us by nova ren sumaThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

This book has lots of awesome things – multiple narrators, ballerinas, a prison for teenage girls and ghosts. I loved the shifting narration, the careful use of magical and supernatural elements, and the honest story that Nova Ren Suma tells about the complicated world of the friendship of teenage girls. This one creeped me out and made me laugh and kept me guessing until the end of the novel.

Recommended For: When you need a reminder that teenage girls can be scary and awesome.

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Currently | The “Readathon Hangover” is Real

currently april 26 2015

Time and Place | It’s about 2 p.m. and I’m sitting in my favorite chair with the windows wide open behind me. It’s a beautiful day and I’m a little brain dead so this is going to be short!

Reading | I read a lot yesterday. Thank you, Readathon. I’m not sure how much I will read today, but if I do pick up a book it’ll be Lesser Beasts by Mark Essig (May 5 from Basic Books) or The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Watching | My current favorite show is iZombie on The CW. It’s delightful. And, for the moment, the actor who played Arthur on Merlin is on the show in a recurring role. He’s damn charming. The boyfriend and I are also watching the third season of Orphan BlackTatiana Maslany continues to be amazing.

Listening | I’ve got two audio books going at the moment, Missoula by Jon Krakauer and God Help the Child by Toni Morrison.

Blogging | In addition to post about the Readathon yesterday and sharing my potential book stack, I wrote about an awesome memoir — It’s What I Do by Lynsey Addario.

Hating | I’m tired of having bad things happen to good people. It’s been like six weeks of bad news and I am just over it. Work last week was also pretty stressful, so that’s put me in a mood.

Loving | Two things that made me happy this week: Disney songs remixed as 90s slow jams and Obama’s anger translator showing up at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner.

Avoiding | I need to get my eating habits back in shape… but I just made chocolate chip cookies. So… yeah.

Anticipating | We’re supposed to have gorgeous weather this week… maybe even into the 80s by next weekend. I anticipate many long walks and an evening or two eating outside. Joy.

Happy Sunday, everyone! What are you reading today?

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Happy Spring 2015 Readathon!

read-a-thonHooray, it’s finally time for the spring 2015 edition of Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon! I can’t tell you how much I need a day devoted to reading and generally nerding out with fellow readers. It’s going to be great.

I’ll be doing most of my Readathon updates on Twitter (@kimthedork) and Instagram (kimthedork). I’m also planning to update this post with other notes using Storify, which I’ve used for the last couple of Readathons (and wrote about on the Readathon blog). You should be able to see the embedded Storify below, but if not follow this link. The most recent updates from the day will be at the top of the feed.

Happy Readathon, everyone!

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Spring 2015 Readathon: Books and Best Laid Plans

This week has been… long. That makes me even more excited that this Saturday is Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, one of the best book nerd days of the entire year. The weather this week has been kind of gross and Saturday doesn’t look much better — perfect for reading.

Like usual, I’ll have a post up here on Saturday where I’ll collect my updates from the day, primarily my Twitter feed (@kimthedork) and Instagram (kimthedork), using Storify. But enough with the formalities, on to the good stuff.

spring 2015 readathon pile

I’ve been adding and taking books off my Readathon pile for the last two or three weeks, but I think this is pretty settled. I usually try for a good mix of fiction and nonfiction, nothing more than about 250 or 300 pages, along with some comics to finish out the evening.

The two books I’m most excited about are Euphoria by Lily King and Zone One by Colson Whitehead. I’ve been looking forward to both of them forever! I’ve also heard great things about Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey, a memoir about a woman with extreme sensitivity to light. The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan is a mix of short stories and essays, and Citizen by Claudia Rankin is a slim volume of prose/poetry that may or may not be a good Readathon pick. And The Translator by Daoud Hari is another memoir. I just noticed there’s no straight nonfiction on this pile… that’s an issue I may need to remedy.

Finally, the comics: Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1Ms. Marvel: Generation WhyAlex + Ada Vol. 1 and The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act. I’ve been looking forward to all of them for awhile now. I also have a couple of audio book options — Missoula by Jon Krakauer and The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

My Best Laid Plans

I have a few chores to do around the house and I need to go grocery shopping to get snacks and dinner. Some of my favorite Readathon treats are cheddar rice cakes, lots of fresh fruit, and Totino’s Pizza Rolls for dinner. We’ve got a whole drawer of tea and a few other drink options… so set there.

I’m hoping that I can finish four books during the Readathon as well as one or two volumes of comics. That’s a little ambitious — in the fall I finished three books and half of a comic memoir — but it’s good to dream big when it comes to a nerdy day of reading.

Other than that, my best advice to fellow readers is to have fun and make an effort to interact with the other participants. Tweet out links to your updates and make sure to visit other readers and cheer them on. If you want people to visit you, you have to make an effort to go find them. That’s the only way an event with more than 1,300 readers and around 100 official cheerleaders will work. </rant>

See all of you readers on Saturday!

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it's what I do by lynsey addarioLynsey Addario’s memoir of her life as a war photographer, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life Of Love And War, opens in Libya in March of 2011. At the time, Addario, photographer Tyler Hicks, journalists Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell, and their driver, Mohammed, were working near Ajdabiya, interviewing and photographing rebels. As they tried to return to safety, they were stopped by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s soldiers at a hostile checkpoint. Mohammed was killed and the four journalists were taken hostage. This scene ends with Addario raising questions that will guide the rest of the book: “Why do you do this work? Why do you risk your life for a photograph?”

After posing the question, It’s What I Do jumps back in time to Addario’s childhood in Connecticut, moving forward through college and her early experiences as an international photographer. For Addario, the hobby of photography eventually became a way for her to see the world while doing work she found valuable and fulfilling.

Her career has taken her around the world, photographing the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, rape victims in the Congo, and starving children in Somalia. During this time, Addario was part of a Pulitzer-Prize winning team at the New York Times and was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant. Throughout, she also shares the challenges her career caused for her relationships and the many treacherous situations she found herself in while in pursuit of a great photo.

Sometimes a book reaches you at a moment where it’s particularly resonant. In this case, Addario’s anxiety about how a relationship, pregnancy and motherhood might affect her career struck a particular chord with me. While few jobs are as physically dangerous and demanding as war photography, her concern that taking time off for family will affect how her fellow journalists and her editors see her – and which assignments she will get – is something I think all women who value their careers must wonder (I know that I do). The fact that she is able to make these varied choices work, thanks to her good work, supportive colleagues, and dedicated partner, was encouraging and affirming to read. I’m grateful Addario was so frank in sharing these parts of her journey.

While I don’t normally gush about the format of a book, I have to point out the beautiful construction of this one. It’s printed on beautiful, glossy paper and Addario’s full color photographs are scattered throughout the piece. It was so beautifully done that I couldn’t help wishing there had been a few more photos (and a little more detail about what each one was – some of the captions are sparse). If you’re going to read this, the hardcover will be worth it so you can see the pictures in detail.

Overall, It’s What I Do is a truly excellent memoir. While the pacing is occasionally slow, the moments where Addario digs deep into her most vulnerable experiences – being embedded with a battalion in the most dangerous region of Afghanistan, her kidnapping in Libya – are page-turning, emotionally resonant stories. I highly recommend this memoir.

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